For many parents having a “swimmer” in the family is not something they planned. Most swimmers begin in a learn-to-swim program and progress through to advanced lessons. From there they are asked to complete a couple of sessions in a junior squad and before you know it they are entrenched and absorbed by the sport of swimming. By this stage, parents begin to realize the enormous commitment required by a swimmer to complete the necessary training and competitions offered in the sport.
As a swimmer I had the opportunity to observe my own parents first hand and how they managed me, and how they worked with, and communicated with my coaches. I was also fortunate enough to be coached by three of the most talented and experienced Australian swimming coaches – 1968 Olympian Julie Dyring, multiple Olympic coach Bill Sweetenham and current Australian Head Coach Leigh Nugent.
As a coach for more than a dozen years I worked closely with swimmers of all ages and have been directly involved in the introduction of parents to the sport of swimming. For a swimming parent, understanding the role of the coach, the role the parent is required to undertake, and the responsibilities of a swimmer is critical to ensuring a positive and successful experience for the whole family.
Over the years I have observed many parents who are introduced to swimming for the first time when their child is promoted to a junior squad.
For most swimmers who train for competitions, the measurement of their improvement is through performance. This is only one way to measure improvement and children should also focus on improving skills like starts, turns and finishes and developing their technique.
One of the aspects I love about swimming is that when swimmers compete, no one else can affect their performance. They have their own lane and no one can tackle them, bowl them out, hit the ball past them or affect their performance in any way. It is just the swimmer and the black line.
Children who choose to train and swim competitively learn so many life skills as they become more exposed to the sport. In general their grades improve at school, their time management skills improve and they learn how to win and how to lose with grace. They are introduced to goal setting and taking responsibility for themselves. They are also exposed to the concept that if you work hard on a skill and commit to doing something correctly over and over again, it will improve.
The development of strong healthy bodies is another major outcome from being involved in swimming. Boys and girls develop a healthy aerobic system and the work they do in the pool helps with the development of their lungs. Muscles are developed on both sides of the body equally and the arm and leg coordination of children who swim is excellent in most cases.